Sage Advice UK

What can your business do to address the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is still an issue that needs to be solved

The gender pay gap has been an issue companies in the UK have had to pay attention to ever since the Equal Pay Act was passed in the early 1970s. That made it illegal to pay a woman less for doing the same job as a man – but decades later, it remains the case that average pay rates are lower for women.

This gap has narrowed over time but it remains a problem that cannot be ignored. If a company is seen to be allowing a pay gap to persist without genuine efforts to tackle it, it could lead to reputational damage and the loss of talented female workers who decide they are better off developing their careers elsewhere.

After all, how much someone is paid is often a reflection of how far they have come in the workplace and how often they have been promoted.

That, of course, offers a good starting point for a strategy to tackle pay gap issues. If retaining and rewarding the best staff, irrespective of gender, is given the priority it warrants, it should follow that women receive the recognition and financial benefits they deserve.

So what practical actions should your business be taking to ensure it properly acknowledges the value and importance of all members of staff, regardless of their gender?

Get to grips with your data

HR and payroll departments can make a difference if they are given the tools and information required to do the job. By using payroll systems that provide data to monitor progress, spot gaps where they exist and identify anomalies, your organisation can acquire the information it needs to know where, when and how to act.

For example, data on returns on investment in human resources – showing where departments or individuals perform well, have low absenteeism and generally deliver results – can help identify where better rewards are justified in terms of pay and promotion.

Deploying automated software to carry out this task will ensure the criteria are objective, eliminating irrelevant factors such as the gender of a particularly high-performing staff member.

The under-promotion of women in the workplace can only lead to failure of a company to maximise the talent and hard work at its disposal. By recognising high performance, your business will boost its chance of thriving.

Moreover, by doing this, you will build trust across the workforce that the organisation is fair and treating everyone equally. Indeed, the use of objective performance measurement software can equally be used to tackle other areas of discrimination.

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Analyse to understand

Before implementing a system that can ensure rewards are fairly given, there needs to be some sort of analysis that compares how staff are being recognised with respect to their gender. This kind of monitoring will offer clear evidence of whether a pay gap exists – and also provide a means of monitoring the effect of subsequent efforts to eliminate it.

Doing this means your business will not have to rely on anecdotal evidence alone when it comes to making judgements on staff performance and the comparative career development experiences of men and women.

Moreover, it means efforts to correct shortcomings are resolved in a smart and effective way that is fair, based on merit and avoids crude measures such as tokenism or so-called positive discrimination, which can cause resentment.

Use the right tools to address the gender pay gap

Effective people management systems can serve as the ideal complement to the right employment policies and company culture, since they offer the analytical data required to show who is performing well.

Growing businesses can deploy these solutions to ensure they are able to continue growing while maintaining legal compliance. These are the kinds of firms where skilled female staff can gain just as much recognition as their male counterparts for the contributions they have made to the company’s growth and success.

In the modern world of work, it’s crucial for all employers – regardless of their size, influence or financial situation – to recognise the significance of issues such as the gender pay gap.

For those who are committed to tackling it, the tools are available to turn good intentions into genuine pay equality.